By: Basil Fernando
Legalistically speaking, a nation is a people living together in a particular geographical region. But legal definitions do not create a nation. The meaning of nation is far deeper than any legal definition of it.
Often politicians define a nation in terms of ideologies. For example, if a nation at a given time adopts the ideology of Communism, it is called a communist nation. If the ideology adopted is Capitalism it is called a capitalist nation. If the nation adopts a Fascist’s ideology it will be called a fascist nation. However, such ideological descriptions do not adequately portray people’s relationships with each other while living in a nation. An ideology may pass away as in Germany from Hitler’s time afterwards. The same is true of Russia, China, and Vietnam. They once were communist nations opposed to capitalism. The present-day ideology in these countries is for rapid progress under capitalism.
What MAKES a nation is an underlining Consciousness that exists among people living together within a particular social bond. Most of the time it is not possible to fully articulate what that Consciousness means. All definitions, by their very nature, limit meanings in order to make a particular disclosure possible. However, human consciousness cannot be restricted within such limits. For that very reason, it cannot be defined. However, it can be understood without definitions.
People living together over a long period of time develop certain understandings about themselves. Individuals understand their individuality within the framework of a larger consciousness. That larger consciousness expresses itself through individuals living in that society. As a result, we have a very complex situation. In fact, what Consciousness MEANS is the issue on which there have been the greatest scientific debates in modern history.
It is this Consciousness that helps people stay together despite conflicts, civil wars and other forms of violence. It is also Consciousness that develops the forms of self-help that exist within society, irrespective of identity differences expressed through disclosure.
When the identity of an individual or a group is defined, it happens only to express some limited meanings. The larger Consciousness of a people cannot be defined by way of particular identities because identities serve only a limited purpose.
The moment attempts are made to define people in terms of religion, race, gender, or ethnicity, the larger issue of a common Consciousness existing within a people is undermined.
In terms of Sri Lanka, the question we need to ask is: what keeps people together irrespective of political betrayal, treachery, and all sorts of attempts to divide persons in terms of identities? If we begin to understand this, we will create possibilities of approaching solutions to problems that have deeply wronged us, creating all manner of wounds.
The presence of hurts and wounds does not mean the loss of the common Consciousness residing in our innermost beings, making us one people. Tragedies, however hard, cannot destroy bonds that are deeply rooted.
Thus, attempts to understand a nation’s inner Consciousness could be the way forward, towards overcoming the big problems that exist on the surface of life today.
Asian Human Rights Commission